Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on winning the 2018 World Series. As much as it pains me to say it, the accomplishments that the Beantown Bombers reached this season are pretty damn incredible and can’t afford to go unnoticed.
But now, it’s the 2018-19 offseason and the wild game of free agency is upon us.
Aces Clayton Kershaw and David Price announced that they’d be staying put, so you can cross them off the list. And it won’t be a total fire sale that many were expecting, but there’s too much impact talent in this class that is prime for the signing.
Let’s take a look at some of the names within the field:
Pitchers: Clay Buchholz, Trevor Cahill, Marco Estrada, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Harvey, Edwin Jackson, Lance Lynn, Drew Pomeranz, CC Sabathia, Anibal Sanchez, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Tyler Clippard, Shawn Kelley, Joe Kelly, Oliver Perez, Sergio Romo, Adam Warren
Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy, Brian McCann, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders: Adrian Beltre, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brian Dozier, Josh Harrison, Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Mike Moustakas, Steve Pearce, Neil Walker
Outfielders: Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Adam Jones, Cameron Maybin, Denard Span
Out of all those names, there’s a lot of spots to be filled on your favorite team. Who knows? Maybe yours will get a hold on one of them in the coming months.
However, everyone’s eyes are on five stars who will make groundbreaking moves with their potential new ball clubs.
5. LF Michael Brantley
Brantley only played a total of 101 games with the Cleveland Indians from 2016-2017 after battling shoulder, biceps, and ankle injuries, all of which required surgery. Many teams are concerned with his health record, but he was finally able to stay healthy in 2018 hitting .309/.364/.468 with 36 doubles, 17 home runs and 76 RBI. The Indians could fit him into the budget after they focus on other free agency targets; for now, they haven’t given him an offer yet.
My prediction: his best fit would be with the Atlanta Braves for a 3-4 year contract totaling $45 million. Many of the Indians’ outfielders are also on the market including Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis. If any one of these players go, Cleveland may look to Adam Jones for solid outfield leadership that manager Terry Francona could rely on.
4. SP Dallas Keuchel
Keuchel won an AL Cy Young in 2015, but has since settled as a pitcher. He’s solid, but not spectacular. Just about capable of posting a sub-3.50 ERA and eating around 200 innings will be enough for a competing team to bite on the soon-to-be 31 year-old. It’s not about velocity and strikeouts with Keuchel, but instead commanding, controlling, and keeping the ball in the yard; his ground-ball rate ranked among league leaders, rising to as high as 66.8-percent in 2017.
My prediction: he’s one of the safest bets in terms of starting pitchers in this free agent class that I can think of, so a four-year, $82 million contract is a sound investment. While I could see Keuchel moving to the Nationals, the Angels will lack Shohei Ohtani in 2019 following TJ surgery. Adding him to the rotation could make the team a contender next season, and even more of a threat when Ohtani returns in 2020.
3. SP Patrick Corbin
No player in recent memory has done more to increase his value than Corbin, and he broke out at just the right time. A younger free agent despite turning 30 this coming July, the southpaw dominated 200 innings for the Diamondbacks, posting a 3.15 ERA with 11.1 K/9 (a spike from 8.4 last season) and 2.2 BB/9 in 33 starts. All courtesy of his improved slider.
My prediction: all signs point to the New York Yankees after Bob Nightengale of USA Today said that he’d be great to pitch for his favorite childhood team. The Yankees have the money (are you surprised?) and the desperate need for him, and Cashman will most likely bite on the opportunity to bring him in. But teams like the Astros, Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Dodgers, Giants, Angels, and Twins have expressed interest, too. It’s going to be a war to try and sign this guy, but they better be able to put up over $120M with a nice 5-6 year contract for him.
2. RF Bryce Harper
Yes, the baseball prodigy himself. The man who everyone can’t stop talking about. Bryce Harper. He’s shown everybody the higher peak of the game and stardom, and the ceiling can only get higher as his career goes on. The Nationals haven’t yet made a move on retaining him, and it’s probably because of his consistency which broke this season. For many bidding teams, that’s make or break for a potential record-breaking deal. Either way, any team would fear him being in the middle of the lineup with the ability to crank 35-40 home runs a season and draw 120 walks. He also builds an MVP campaign every season if that helps in the decision.
My prediction: there’s a plethora of teams who can afford to house Harper with a long-term contract; the Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies, Yankees, and Cardinals are all likely suitors. However, I feel the Giants are going to give him a deal beyond words: 10+ years, $400 million. Whatever the final result will be, be prepared for a breaking news update that will shake the entire world of baseball.
1. SS Manny Machado
When it comes to the debate of who’s touted to be the No. 1 free agent, Machado beats out Harper due to his strength of consistency with more impact on the defensive side. Plus, his case is just as compelling. A two-time Gold Glove winner who can play both third base and shortstop, he’ll take whichever of the two as long as his contract is suitable for him. Since 2015, he’s also been an excellent hitter beating out Harper in WAR over the past three years. However, his reputation has been criticized over the past couple seasons, including during the recent postseason where his actions considered him to be a “dirty player.” Either way, both Harper and Machado are legitimate superstars who will change the direction of any franchise in heartbeat. Both of them will end up making $30 million annually with whoever they sign with.
My prediction: Machado is believed to be the Phillies’ No. 1 target, as they were reported to be “swimming in the deep end of the [upcoming] free-agent pool.” Both him and Harper could blow Giancarlo Stanton’s deal made last season with the Yankees out of the water, but it’s possible that Machado could be making close to $400 million off of a potential 13-year contract.